Jun 10, 2014

...And Color Inside the Lines, Dammit!

slice of life by killre

Silly me, I always thought rule number one was "have fun."

Last evening, I attended a parental orientation meeting for my kid's summer camp.  I'm not sure exactly why.  He's going to Washington, D.C. and New York for a week this summer.  He's going fishing in Canada for two.  Plus we have big plans for the Fourth of July weekend.  His mother insists on booking him solid, though, so that's partly how I wound up in a parental orientation meeting, but I'm still not sure why.  I guess you can't just ship them off to camp anymore with a soft slap on the back and a theatrically hearty, "Say, some of those boys look kinda big!  Well, good luck, kiddo."

Besides, it isn't even a real camp-- it's a day camp.  A DAY camp!  It's like pre-school for shy and *cough* overly mothered early teens.  (Quick look over shoulder.)

Mostly, the meeting was about completing paperwork.  Emergency contact one, emergency contact two, emergency contact three, emergency contact four.  Wait, additional contacts?  Um, what are you guys planning to do to my kid?

We also received a copy of the Day Camp Behavior Policy, to be signed by both parent and "participant," detached, and filed for later use by the inevitable tribunal.  The Day Camp Behavior Policy was a revelation.  They're not too subtle about their major concern, as you will soon see.

First, though, I'm going to parse a few words.  I promise not to be too long about it.  I know I probably bore you when I do that, dear reader, but I just can't help wondering why, if someone took the time to compose them, they didn't take the time to make sure they didn't defy logic-- especially in the first [fudging] sentence:

1. Participants will respect themselves, others and the world around them.

*sigh*  You cannot legislate thought.  Okay?  You cannot command a person to have respect for someone or something.  You can instruct them to act respectfully; you might even get away with telling them to "be respectful," although even that treads shaky ground; but you are definitely over the fault line in dictating, "You WILL respect everything!  I have so decreed!"

Okay, rant over.

In his later years, George Carlin famously boiled the Ten Commandments down to just two.  I was reminded of that as I perused the rest of the Day Camp Behavior Policy.  If you accept the spirit of rule number one (rather than lawyering the letter of it, as I did), then most of the rest of the list falls under the same general respect-demanding (though not -inducing) edict: no foul language, no name-calling, no bullying, no fighting, clean up after yourself, no bullying, no fighting, no wandering off and getting snatched by a pedophile, no bullying, no fighting, follow instructions, don't break anything, no bullying, no fighting...

What's that sign say?
"No bare feet."

What's that sign say!
"No fighting!"

What does it mean?
*shrug* "Means no fighting."

The last rule:

10. Most importantly, ALL MUST HAVE FUN AT DAY CAMP!

Don't get me wrong-- I understand what they're trying to do here.  Underneath that ponderous portion of protoplasmic cheez whiz, though, what else have they done?  Well, they've tried to legislate thought again, and in doing so they've unintentionally indicated that if you don't have fun, they will force it on you-- always the surest way to achieve that particular result.  Moreover, they've buried the very thing they herald as the most important at the bottom of the list rather than the top.  They have even been repetitive enough to be repetitive enough to be repetitive enough to configure their rules into ten sentences-- probably for the same reason the Hebrews did it five thousand years ago: it's a round number.

(Completely tangential: Why do we use a base-ten math system?
Because that's how many fingers we have, that's why.)

What struck me most at the time, though, was that this prodding, this cajoling, this exhortation to "have fun" comes quick on the heels of a looooooong list of don'ts.

P.S.... Bud "Betting Is Illegal At Bushwood, Sir,
          And I Never Slice" Selig must go (while we're young!).

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